LOS ANGELES — English rioters IDLES gave the Teragram Ballroom a bodacious reminder that post-punk can, and should, embody the timeless aggression of traditional U.K. punk rock in the last date of their U.S. tour on Wednesday.
The impending chaos couldn’t have been predicted as the quintet bantered with the crowd while setting up its gear. Guitarist Mark Bowen was particularly open in his silliness, wearing nothing but tighty-whities and shoes.
IDLES began their two-hour set with the bludgeoning “Colossus,” the opening track off of their new album, Joy as an Act of Resistance. Adam Devonshire’s massive bass tone filled the room as the band gradually took the stage, embodying the song’s name at an entirely different level. It’s speedy culmination incited a raging mosh pit, setting the stage for a night brimming with raw adrenaline.
The band followed the tracklist of the new album with “Never Fight a Man With a Perm.” Brooding riffs built the tension to a breaking point, making every dynamic explosion an unstoppable blast of energy. The band’s feral stage presence was equally transfixing in its intimidating outlandishness.
Jon Beavis’ stomping grooves on “Mother” and jackhammer hits on “Heel / Heal” kept things moving with brain-melting intensity. He and Devonshire locked into face-breaking grooves, over which Bowen and Lee Kiernan crescendoed from eerie ambiance to commanding riffs. IDLES held nothing back, supercharging the volume of their studio material to a stunning effect.
Frontman Joe Talbot exuded natural charisma on stage, grilling his bandmates’ feigned frustration between songs with British wit to spare. He fed off the electrifying energy of the band by shuffling and dancing to the music but would stare down the audience like a wolverine sizing up its prey. IDLES’ combination of humor and terror made for a polarized, but compelling performance.
The undeniable humor of Talbot and company provided the perfect foil for the heavy subject matter and animalistic style IDLES dabble in. “Love Song” exemplified this dichotomy perfectly, as the slam-dance-worthy number encourages men to be open about their feelings. Their performance proved their point—that men can reclaim masculinity from outdated notions of machismo, and use their strength to love courageously.
IDLES did not shy away from touchy issues both personal and public. From anti-Brexit anthem “Great” to the call to support those struggling internally found on “Cry To Me,” the five made their noise for a purpose. Talbot’s dark humor reflected the vulnerability his words encourage, creating a fun, but earnest, atmosphere. Instead of beating everyone over the head with his ideals, he showed appreciation for the like-minded people gathered at the show.
The old-school punk rock anarchy of the concert boiled over toward the end, with band and fans joining forces in a jubilant raucous noise. Bowen, still half-naked, and Kiernan crowd-surfed to the center of the audience, where they handed their instruments to fans. No sooner had they made their way back to the stage that they started pulling concertgoers on stage. They even got the sound guy in on it. IDLES wouldn’t let anyone leave without experiencing what they feel matters most—choosing joy no matter the circumstance.
Brooklyn’s Bambara opened the night with a slightly less aggressive post-punk approach. While at times decimatingly thrashy, the band often settled into an angrier take on Denmark’s Ice Age. This came mostly from the ominous singing of vocalist Reid Bateh, who provided some ominous melody to contrast with the band’s unrelenting assault.
Drummer Blaze Batteh lived up to his name, giving a fiery performance to remember. Just when it seemed he would reached his limit, he’d push a little harder and faster. The band seemed to feed off of his frenetic playing, making for some truly overwhelming passages. Batteh would throw himself to the ground and get in fans’ faces, mirroring IDLES’s desire to break down emotional walls and liberate genuine emotion.